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Todt: McLaren used data to limit Ferrari performance 30 Jul 2007

Jean Todt (FRA) Ferrari Sporting Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Magny-Cours, France, Saturday, 30 June 2007 (L to R): Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007 and race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 battle for the lead.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 22 July 2007

McLaren’s chief designer Mike Coughlan had access to leaked Ferrari data prior to the start of the 2007 season which prompted the team’s subsequent request for FIA clarification over the use of ‘moveable’ floors. That is the claim of Ferrari boss Jean Todt, after his rivals escaped sanction in last week’s World Motor Sport Council hearing.

The Council agreed that McLaren were in possession of Ferrari data, but chose not to penalise them as they could find insufficient proof the team had made use of it. However, Todt believes it was utilised by the British team, albeit indirectly, to give them an advantage over Ferrari.

"The McLaren bosses, with no exceptions, admitted that their chief designer had obtained since back in March, prior to the Australian GP, documents from [former Ferrari engineer] Nigel Stepney,” said Todt on the official Ferrari website.

“Some of this data was used to prepare a clarification request submitted to the FIA, aimed clearly at us, given that throughout the Melbourne weekend, McLaren team principal and his closest colleagues made statements in which they threw doubt over ‘some cars’. Therefore, such information was in fact used to obtain an advantage over us: not through an improvement in their performance, but instead through limiting ours.”

Ferrari won the season opener in Melbourne, but their performance dropped off in the following races after the FIA tightened the regulations relating to floor mountings, limiting teams’ ability to use movement in the floor for aerodynamic gain. McLaren have insisted no one in the team, bar Coughlan, knew of the Ferrari data prior to July 3, when Coughlan was suspended.

Admitting he remains bitter about the World Council’s decision, Todt also accused McLaren of hypocrisy after revealing that he had recently signed an accord with them, aimed at preventing disputes between the two teams.

"A few weeks after the race in Melbourne, the McLaren team principal proposed that we should reach a sort of agreement to establish a better relationship between our two teams, thus avoiding any future denunciations to the sporting authority,” said Todt.

“I replied that I found it impossible to believe him, because on several occasions we had seen that certain commitments had always been disregarded by McLaren. There was an exchange of views and, believing in their good faith, I agreed to sign this agreement on 9 June last.

“Since that time and even earlier, McLaren was perfectly aware, not only of the e-mails sent by their informer within our company, but also of the fact that their chief designer had stayed in contact with him and had received and continued to be in possession of a significant amount of technical information that belonged to us. So, on the one hand, they had come to say ‘let us trust one another,’ and on the other they were hiding serious facts such as those just stated above.”

Summarising his feelings on the FIA’s findings, Todt concluded: "This decision remains very disappointing and surprising. It is not acceptable to create a precedent in such an important case in which the guilty verdict for serious and persistent violation of the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not automatically incur a penalty.”

Todt confirmed that Ferrari will press on with legal actions relating to Stepney and Coughlan currently taking place in Italy and in England, and that the team have not ruled out taking further action over the matter.